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Monday, August 27, 2018


The north leg of the trail overlooks a sprawling marsh.
Pumphouse Wash is a tributary gorge of Oak Creek Canyon that runs between Sedona and Flagstaff, roughly paralleling State Route 89A.
The trail wanders through moist meadows.
Its rugged, lower channels—that can be accessed from SR 89A just south of the switchbacks 12 miles north of Sedona –are popular destinations for backcountry hiking and technical canyoneering. From the looks of the tangled corridor’s boulder-choked base, vertical walls, slots and pools of dubious depths, it’s difficult to imagine that its headwaters are located 600 feet uphill in unassuming meadows around the tiny community of Kachina Village.
Four O'Clock flowers are plentiful in summer.
Located 9 miles south of Flagstaff off Interstate 17, the mountain hamlet is an idyllic residential area of log cabins, A-frame summer homes and a hub of nature trails in the Pumphouse Wash County Natural Area.
The trail stays on the brown and out of the green.
 Less than a mile from the freeway, Raymond Park and Pumphouse Nature Trail offer short, effortless walks outfitted with observation decks overlooking acres of wet meadows that help with natural flood control and groundwater recharge while providing rich wildlife habitat. Just steps off the pavement, these two easy-access sites provide excellent opportunities to view elk, foxes, waterfowl and deer. For a longer hike, farther away from the asphalt and parking lots, the Pumphouse Wash Trail dives deeper into the woods, following damp swales that drain into Oak Creek and the Verde River.  This venture into the softer side of the wash doesn’t challenge hikers with harsh terrain navigation, rock scrambling or water obstacles.  Instead, the smooth, designated trail that traces vivid strips of sensitive wetlands is all about low-impact travel.
Late summer sunflowers in Pumphouse Wash.
The last thing delicate riparian plants and aquatic species need is human boots and loose dogs trampling their precious environments. The Coconino County Parks & Recreation Department, which oversees the site, advises visitors to “hike on the brown, stay out of the green”.
Limestone cliffs seen from the north leg of the trail.
Sticking to designated trails is always a good idea, but staying out of the weeds is especially important to help protect the health of rare watershed areas like this one.
Moth Mullein grows in most areas along the route.
From the roomy trailhead, the route departs in two directions. The 0.3-mile north segment follows a closed road above a scenic marsh area, but it’s the 1.4-mile south leg that leads to the best parts. 
Yellow Salsify (silver puffs) are common meadow bloomers.
The trail narrows as it moves south.
Just beyond the rustic fence entry, a sunny field flanked with limestone cliffs glows with summer wildflowers. 
Morning dew on New Mexican Checkermallow.
Showy sunflowers, blue flax and fleabane bloom among tall grasses and fruit-laden wild rose and currant shrubs.  The trail stays on the pine-shaded high banks of wide greenway as it twists past scoured embankments and spongy cienegas with water-loving patches of New Mexican Checkermallow, Shrubby cinquefoil and Moth Mullein. At about the 1-mile point, the wash corridor begins to narrow and thickets of willows and oaks gradually close in on the path.
Shrubby cinquefoil grows near marshes.
The route ends where the meadows morph into a jumbled, overgrown watercourse where Woody Wash comes in from the northwest.  Underbrush, log jams and thorny brambles preclude further exploration. 

If you need further incentive to hike on the brown and return the way you came; most of the green stuff ahead is poison ivy.
Fence at the beginning of the trail's south leg.
LENGTH: 3. 4 miles roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 6670 – 6600 feet
From Interstate 17 just south of Flagstaff, take the Kachina Village exit 333. At the bottom of the off ramp, turn left onto Kachina Blvd. and go 0.1-mile to Kachina Trail. Turn right, go 0.3-mile, turn left onto Ancient Trail and continue 0.9-mile to the trailhead on the left located across from Oraibi Ovi. Dogs must be on leash.

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